Google Wave (Huh! Good God, Y'all!) What is it good for? Absolutely something! (say it again)

What is Google Wave good for? I don't know! I haven't used it. Above, two Google Wave demo-tainment videos you must watch. YouTube hacker/artist Joe Sabia has done it again. Two Google Wave experimental films, Pulp WAVE Fiction, and Good WAVE Hunting.

And, more soberly now: in an extensive feature-by-feature blog post, Daniel Tenner breaks down what purpose Google Wave serves, and why early detractors may be missing the point.

0012-01.jpg I believe this is partly Google's fault: they released Wave to geeks and hackers and social media folks first. But Wave is not a geek/hacker tool, or a social media tool, it's a corporate tool that solves work problems (more on that later). On the other hand, they never claimed it would be a Facebook replacement or a Twitter killer. Google calls wave an "online tool for real-time communication and collaboration". The way Google should have advertised Wave is: "it solves the problems with email".
What problems does Google Wave solve? A matter of perspective. (, via @carr2n)


  1. It may solve the problem with email, but is it a case of “all your data are belong to us”? Can I be offline with wave? Can I have my own wave server? If google implodes from terrorism/civil war/work experience kids do I have redundant distributed alternatives? (sites vs protocols?)

    I like google, but it’s a better slave than master.

  2. I think it looks pretty interesting. Great for an alway-on campfire-type app for your team or your colleagues, that you can jump right into, to mix shit up. I’d dig it.

    And it’s free.. woo!

  3. Antijoe, in a word, yes. Also, from the original tech demonstration (the link is eluding me atm) the phrase “it solves problems with email” was indeed the gist of the talk.

  4. The linked article is an excellent example of why geeks say wave doesn’t really solve anything, and the technology-ignorant think it does. Any geek would look through his list of points and know offhand exactly how these problems are already solved by email (or, in the cases involving multi-party editing, by email plus an application).

    Seriously, “threading”? “Attaching files”? These things work fine with email. The only problem is people who don’t know how to use email – which is sadly common, but also an unsolvable problem in general. No matter how much you dumb down a technology, all you’re doing is opening the door to admit a new wave of incompetence. If this wave thing takes off then in ten years we’ll just have a fresh batch of commentators who don’t know how to use it, decry it as broken, and write lengthly diatribes about how some new thing is going to solve all their problems.

    There’s only one real solution. Somebody go teach those people how to use email to solve their problems.

    1. Any geek would look through his list of points and know offhand exactly how these problems are already solved by email..

      Which is why people pay good money to use things like Campfire, yeah?

  5. I received an invite from a friend by request, but as I have no invites of my own to give yet it is currently useless to me.
    I really cannot wait to get some invites to give, I have a few waves ready to start the moment I can invite the people I actively collaborate with on projects regularly.

  6. @asuffield I think you’re a bit off in your commentary. Email for what it is, is really outdated – it can do what it currently does so much better, and that’s what Google seems to be reaching for.

    Overall to me, Wave seems great – not because I’m a corporate guy – but because I’m a designer. I’d absolutely kill for this to replace our inter-office email – it can become a mess with all the forwarding/editing/replying we do. I’d also love to use this with freelance clients and other designers too, it would make collaboration so much more streamlined.

    It’s too early in the game to know if it’ll catch on, but I really hope it does.

  7. So, from reading the link, Wave improves on email by, basically, making the stupidest parts of corporate culture easier to do?


  8. @Antijoe – Wave is open source, and you can host your own server.

    @Anonymous above me – despite the otherwise insightful article’s insistence on using “corporate” all over the place, it solves common problems for any group of people trying to get work done rather than write a Postscript driver from scratch just so they can show they know how.

    Creative teams, small businesses, nonprofits trying to provide real services to people, government agencies getting buried in process – all of these can benefit from something like Wave as much if not more so than corporations.

    In fact, small endeavors are likely to adopt it faster, because they don’t have to wait for some idiot in the corner office to sign off on it.

    Ignore progress at your peril. Your competitors will be checking it out.

  9. focus is like, email but, whatever, don’t rly see why ppl use email anyways, maybe it makes the old timers feel comfy?

  10. I’ve been using Wave for a few weeks now, and have sent out invites to a few non-technical, non-marketing people. They’re all completely baffled by it, even after I demonstrate it’s features. They just don’t understand the idea that you can edit an existing wave, so they wind up creating a brand new one instead of editing an existing one. It’s really not clear to your average email/web-browser/Word user how Wave is different from email.

    Having used it for a while, it really strikes me as just a souped-up IRC client, that saves state. They way the demo video goes on and on, you’d think it was the Next Big Thing, but what does it do that you can’t already do with Facebook, email and texts?

  11. For geeks who don’t get it (like @asuffield) think of possibilities just for replacing a “file” with a wave. A permanent, re-playable record of all communication which can have applications embedded that connect to outside systems. For examples: your phone records with billing and usage embedded in the wave, or a police case file, or your HR file at work.

  12. Well, gee, I’d love to try it out for myself, but I can’t, as I haven’t been invited.

    I don’t know much about Google Wave, but I do know that Google Wave has dissed me, so I hate it already.

  13. Nothing is new, only that which is forgotten. And Google Wave is simply OpenDoc redux, which was killed off after the main protagonists realised it was shit.

    I guess the young dudes at Google weren’t borned before 1995 though. So they are doomed to repeat the past.


  14. I too have been using Google Wave a bit. I do think it fits a distinct niche that neither facebook nor any other free application completely fulfills. It’s basically a freely editable, semi-private wiki page with forum-like layout, real-time updates, and simultaneous multi-user widgets. One of the biggest problems I’ve seen that hinders adoption is that the format is so flexible that some edits/replies don’t have a defined correlation to everyday conversation.

  15. I have a friend that owns a house framing business. When the specs of the project get changed, sometimes a year after the project was begun, things can get lost. I can completely see having a collaborative workspace like Google Wave to keep up on the status of a projects changes that were made by all of the different people involved.

    We’ll see though, I probably have to get him off of a completely paper filing system first.

  16. Personally, I use Showdocument for online teaching and web conferencing. I’m not saying these programs aren’t good,
    But I think a web-based application is always better, since there’s nothing to download or install.
    try it at . -andy

  17. Yes and No.


    I have an account and agree that without a large (or even a small) number of others to use it with, the utility is very limited.

    I can see that it would be useful for projects, but it is not a ‘general e-mail’ replacement – nor would it be for some of the things I had to use e-mail for in my previous job.

    However, for project management, shared exercises and group activity – and for friends meeting online, it could be very useful.

  18. i got an invite. i got excited. i tried to like Wave. i did.

    I’m 100% sure it solves a problem, just not 100% sure what that problem is yet.

    One problem it causes: typing performance anxiety.

  19. I must admit that I was a bit skeptical of the usefulness of Wave. Can’t I already do all of those things using other technologies? Why should I bring another client into the mix? But the discussion around Wave leads me to believe that the real benefit of Wave will be experience by collectives: those whose work is collaborative and would be assisted by a streamlined work-flow manager.

    But really, if Marsellus Wallace says so, I am down.

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